Users caution Baan

Baan’s recently formed UK user group voiced its concern last week that in its effort to turn its fortunes around, the Dutch enterprise resource planning software house has placed too great a reliance on Microsoft.

The warning follows the launch last month of E-Enterprise, a Web-enabled suite of programs to allow companies to extend their supply chains over the internet.

E-Enterprise is based on Microsoft’s Internet Site Server and runs on Microsoft’s SQL Server 7 database. It consists of three applications – Web storefront sales, information sharing and procurement – and integrates with Baan’s front and back-office products. Aimed mainly at manufacturing companies with complex procurement requirements, the cost of implementing the suite starts at about £25,000.

Richard Horsman, Baan’s industry solutions director, argued that Baan’s superior object-oriented architecture made it easier to use and more analytical than rival products.

‘Lots of vendors have application programming interfaces but not all of them are as open as ours,’ he said. ‘There are more than 3,000 functions within ERP and every one is different.’

E-Enterprise deepens Baan’s relationship with Microsoft. Horsman explained that Bill Gates’ vision of a company served by a Digital Nervous System was integral to taking the complexity out of lengthy ERP implementations.

But David Marshall, chairman of Baan Users in the UK and Ireland – formed independently from the supplier in February – said Baan users had yet to be convinced about the effectiveness of Microsoft’s SQL Server database. ‘There’s a lot of scepticism among Microsoft’s customer base about its scalability. There’s also a reluctance to commit critical systems to Windows NT.’

Marshall welcomed Baan’s e-commerce product and predicted it would provide smaller companies with a cheap, user-friendly gateway to electronic commerce.

But he criticised Baan for failing to keep users informed about recent managerial shuffles. Last week, Baan announced losses for the third consecutive quarter, and the company has come under fire for failing to integrate the Coda Financials product, which Baan acquired last year.

Marshall called on the management to outline a timetable for integrating Coda Financials into its existing family of products. ‘Baan has financial modules but they come a poor second to Coda,’ he said. ‘We are going to set up a finance special-interest group next month and one of its questions will be the precise timing of a Coda integration.’

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